Act, and do not lose hope!
Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary
Readings for Year B – 2014-15
by Leah D. Schade
The Second Sunday after Pentecost in Year B
2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1
“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand,” (Mark 3:25). So notes Jesus when answering accusations that he is in league with demonic forces and drawing on them for his power to exorcise those same spirits. The readings today can be explored through an eco-hermeneutic with the following question: What does it mean to live in a house divided against itself?
It is worth noting that the Greek word for house is oikos, from which we derive words such as “ecology” and “economy.” When we think of the “house” in expanded terms to include the very Earth itself – the household we share with our Earth-kin—we can see that there has been a disconnect between humanity and God's Creation. Human beings are spiritually alienated from the soil, the water, the flora and the fauna of the planet we call home. A rupture in the relationship has divorced us from those with whom we share this oikos. Whence began this rupture that has so divided the house? The iconic story in Genesis 3 provides valuable insights.
people see this story as the explanation for the concept of Original Sin—the
doctrine that all human beings are born into a sinful state because of the fall
of Adam and Eve due to their decision to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. But
there is another way to view this story. The preacher may want to shift the traditional
interpretation of the story of “The Fall” from mere anthropocentric sin to that
of original anthropogenic sin—humanity’s
first crime against nature. The myth of the “fall” of human beings has specific
application to the current environmental crisis. This story shows us that God
set out limits for human beings in how they were to exist in the garden. For
the good of Adam and Eve, for the good of the tree, for the good of the entire
garden, God essentially said: “This far and no farther.” God established a
boundary for the mutual protection of the relationship between humankind and
the created world.
this house that has been divided against itself is collapsing. Our preaching
must honestly name the truth that we see around us by pointing out the ways in
which our anthropogenic sin is polluting the air, water and land. In Lutheran
theological terms, this is the Law we must articulate in order for the mirror
to be held up to what is really there.
Only by honestly confronting this reality can we open ourselves to Jesus’
power and begin to counteract the demonic forces at work. In the words of Tom
Ravetz in the Journal for the Renewal of Religion and Theology, we “can
accept the reality of the situation without flinching because we see its place
in the development of the world. We see, too, where we can help to redeem it,
letting its deeper meaning shine forth. We can accept the reality of the dying
earth, because we know that we are engaged in its re-enlivening.”
Rather than speak about this rupture in a general way, the preacher would do well to refer to a context-specific environmental problem that will concretize the message for listeners. For example, what is a local waterway or abandoned lot or brownfield site or air quality issue that has an impact on the hearers’ lives and community? In what ways has this issue caused a rupture in the oikos and harmed the kin of the household?
Take care that the sermon does not end with guilt-inducing Law that leaves the listener without hope. Rather, our preaching must proclaim God’s intention and action to heal and restore the oikos. For instance, what are things that are being done, or have been done, to address the problem? What local groups are pulling trash out of the river? What legislation is being proposed to address the air quality issue? What faith communities have come together to plant community gardens to help feed their neighbors? Knowing that this work is being done—and inviting listeners to join in those efforts—helps to proclaim the Gospel so that the faithful recognize the “sisters, brothers and mothers” of Jesus doing the work to repair the ruptures, heal the wounds, and set the house aright.
By lifting up these instances of hope, we realize that, in fact, Jesus is not aligned with the demonic, but with the divine. All of his miracles, exorcisms, teachings, and walk to Calvary clearly demonstrate his commitment not to dividing the house, but to uniting it under God’s healing love. It is that love that enables us to wait, as Psalm 130 entreats us, and not to lose heart, as Paul encourages us.
For additional care for creation reflections on the overall themes of the lectionary lessons for the month by Trisha K Tull, Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and columnist for The Working Preacher, visit: http://www.workingpreacher.org/columnist_home.aspx?author_id=288
 Tom Ravetz, "Reenlivening the Dying Earth," Journal for the Renewal of Religion and Theology December 2006.